They swore this time would be different. One year after a brutal loss in Los Angeles torpedoed their season, the Phillies insisted they wouldn't let a blown four-run lead at Dodger Stadium linger beyond Monday night. Then, they proved it. Nick Williams homered, Odubel Herrera drove in two runs, and Jake Arrieta delivered seven shutout innings in a 6-1 victory. Rhys Hoskins even ripped a pinch-hit double one night after fouling a 95-mph fastball off his face. Talk about a feel-good win.
It was the latest example of a positive response to a gut punch. The Phillies rebounded from a rough opening-day loss in Atlanta with an 11-inning victory. After getting walked off May 6 in Washington, they won four games in a row. They reeled off three consecutive wins after Hector Neris blew a ninth-inning lead against the Mets on May 11. All good teams are characterized by resilience, one quality these young Phillies appear to have in abundance.
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For all the numbers crunching and the metrics and the math, the Phillies' winning formula has been rather elementary. Day after day, week after week, manager Gabe Kapler has given the ball to a starting pitcher who, in turn, has thrown it effectively.
Phillies starters have allowed no more than two runs in 18 of the last 21 games, the best run by a Philadelphia rotation since September 2011. Back then, manager Charlie Manuel was running out Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt en route to 102 wins and a fifth consecutive division title. The names are different now, but among them, Aaron Nola, Nick Pivetta, Vince Velasquez, Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin have combined for a 1.98 ERA since May 5.
On Tuesday night, it was Arrieta's turn. Pitching at the site of his first career no-hitter, he muted the Dodgers again, allowing a half-dozen hits and two walks over seven innings. Arrieta hasn't given up a run in 13 2/3 innings over his last two starts. His ERA in five starts in May is 0.90.
Arrieta played plenty of meaningful baseball over the past three seasons with the Chicago Cubs. As such, he's keenly aware that strong starting pitching can almost singlehandedly keep a team in the pennant race. Asked last week if he expects the Phillies and the equally upstart Atlanta Braves to stay in the hunt for the division title through the summer and into September, Arrieta unsurprisingly pointed to both teams' rotations.
"It's going to come down to how we pitch," he said. "If we keep our teams in the game, speaking of our club and the Braves, if we're able to do that, we'll probably see each other down the road in a pretty significant spot as far as the division goes."
Kapler called Arrieta "an animal" after his latest gem. Arrieta said he relished the opportunity to be "a stopper" after Monday night's disappointing loss.
It wasn't all good news for the Phillies. Utility infielder Pedro Florimon fouled a ball off his right foot and broke a bone near his big toe, as Matt Breen reports. Florimon will learn Wednesday if he needs surgery. Regardless, he's headed to the disabled list, and the Phillies will have to make a roster move.
Rhys Hoskins said he's "feeling pretty lucky" to have escaped serious injury. The key to his recovery: "Just time and Neosporin," according to Hoskins. That pinch-hit double proves he's a quick healer.
Injured reliever Pat Neshek is inching closer to a minor-league rehab assignment, and Kapler can't wait to see the righthander back on a mound.
Tonight: Zach Eflin, a Dodger for one day in 2014, faces his former team, 10:10 p.m.
Tomorrow: Marquee matchup between Aaron Nola and Clayton Kershaw, 7:35 p.m.
Friday: Phillies begin a three-game series in San Francisco, 10:15 p.m.
Sunday: Arrieta looks to continue his roll in the series finale vs. the Giants, 4:05 p.m.
Since May 20, when his 45-game on-base streak ended, Odubel Herrera is only 7 for 32 (.219), a skid that has dropped his batting average from .353 to .328. But Herrera's impact on the Phillies can be measured in other ways, too. According to Statcast, Herrera has made six plays in center field that are considered "outs above average," tying him with Michael A. Taylor (Nationals), Ender Inciarte (Braves) and Adam Duvall (Reds) for the second most among outfielders. Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton leads all outfielders with eight outs above average.
Question: (Maikel) Franco wants us to forget last year, but aren't we seeing the same Franco? Inconsistent hitting and fielding? Is it time to realize he is not a building block for the future? — Dennis G., via email
Answer: Thank you for the question, Dennis, and for reading "Extra Innings." Everyone knows this is a crossroads season for Franco, so let's take a closer look at his performance. Through Monday, he was tied for third among NL third basemen in RBIs (31) and tied for fifth in home runs (8), but he ranked only 11th in OPS (.749), which put him below the league average (.773). At times, Franco appears poised to realize his potential; during other stretches, his bat goes silent.